Ofcom lets Vodafone, O2 refarm 4G spectrum for stronger 5G rollout

(Image credit: EE)

Ofcom plans to let Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 to reuse their 4G spectrum assets for their respective rollouts of 5G.

Both operators have requested changes to the terms of their spectrum licences, which include several technical parameters. 

These govern which specific frequencies can be used and maximum power output.

5G spectrum boost

The regulator has accepted Vodafone’s request to use its 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz airwaves for 5G, arguing the changes would take into account the latest network innovatioons and would make the licences more technology-neutral.

Ofcom will also removed a restriction placed on Virgin Media O2’s 2.6GHz licence that blocked a 5MHz block of unpaired spectrum that was adjacent to Vodafone’s unpaired allocation. This will provide Virgin Media O2 with access to 20MHz of spectrum compared to the 15MHz it has now.

Vodafone has agreed to the request and the two operators will now work to synchronise their transmissions to avoid disruption.

The variations are now subject to a public consultation, but Ofcom says it would be prepared to make the same changes for other spectrum licence holders, including EE and Three, should they make a similar request.  

Both changes should support each operator’s respective 5G rollouts and help Ofcom achieve its ambition of making as much usable spectrum as possible for the mobile industry at a time when mobile communications are increasingly important to everyday life.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.